“I’m calling you out,” growled Brill Ponstock, gun thug and sore loser, as he jumped out of his chair. Tom the Drunk and One-Eyed Eli dropped their cards and ran for the door. The barman dove into the back alley. Jake stayed right where he was.

Brill was the kinda guy who made an ordinary brawl look like a prayer meeting, and Jake McMuffin had no intention of fighting him.

“Now, Brill, just ‘cause trouble comes a-calling, don’t mean I gotta offer it a place to sit down,” he said.

“I was just sittin’,” replied Brill, confused. If Brill’s brains were dynamite, there wouldn’t be enough to blow his nose.

“I see,” said Jake. “Well, why don’t you sit again and we can continue our game?” Jake slowly counted his winnings, as he watched Brill warily from under the brim of his new hat.

“I don’t play with blacklegs. Yer a cheat and I will have justice.” Brill pulled his gun from his holster.

Jake calmly pushed half his pile of money towards Brill. “If I said I’d made an error and this was owed to you, would that relieve the need for a dust-up?”

“If you pushed that whole pile this way, I’d say it might,” said Brill.

“So, we’re square now? No need for gun play?” Jake asked as he pushed the rest of the money over.

“Toss in that fancy pocket watch and I’d say that’s a fair shake.”

“But, Sir, that was never part of the game. I simply cannot give it to you.”

“But, Sir,” Brill drawled sarcastically, “You sure enough can’t leave with it.” He pointed the gun at Jake’s head.

Jake pulled the timepiece from his pocket and began to gently polish the silver case with his sleeve. The ticking of the watch seemed to grow louder and faster in the empty room.

“I am very fond of this watch. Is there something else I can offer you in its place?”

“How about yer woman?” Brill sneered lasciviously.

“Don’t got one.”

“Then yer horse?”

“I don’t ride.”

“Yer guns?”

“Sadly, I haven’t got those either.” Jake kept rubbing at the ticking watch, never taking his eyes off the gunman.

“So, what do you have?”

“Nothing, I guess. Just this watch. And some memories.”

“Memories? What the hell I care about yer memories?” Brill took a step closer. “Give me the watch.”

“I didn’t say they were my memories.”

“You addle-headed or just plain crazy? Give me that watch or I’m sending you to the bone orchard.” Brill pulled back the hammer on his gun.

“Well I guess I can’t argue with that,” said Jake as he put the gleaming metal orb on the table.

“About time.” Brill leaned over the table to grab up the watch. As he reached out, the watch case popped open and a beam of light shot straight up and hit between Brill’s eyes. Brill went stiff, then he started shaking, his eyes rolling back into his head. After a minute, the light disappeared and Brill dropped to the floor. His gun slipped out of his hands.

Jake stood and picked up Brill’s six-shooter, putting it in his satchel.

Brill stared up at him with a blank face. “What’s happening?”

“You’re fuddled from the whiskey, I suspect,” said Jake smiling. “Let me give you a hand.” He helped Brill slump into a chair at the card table.

“Were we playing?”

“Perhaps you were,” said Jake. “But I don’t believe in games of chance.”

Jake picked up his watch and pushed a small red button on the back of the case before returning it to his pocket.

“Who are you?”

“I am a blackleg, and a larcenist, and a pioneer of trade. I seek out items of great interest for special collectors, which I take, with or without consent. And now that I’ve got what I came here for, I’m off to get paid. I think there will be a nice bonus for the gun. My client’s been waiting a very long time for this.”

“This?” Brill looked at Jake, more confused than ever.

“The request was for the memories of a villainous shootist from the old west. That’s you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m not surprised. Your head was quite empty to begin with.” Jake’s pocket beeped twice. “Time to go. Goodbye, Brill.”

“Who’s Brill?” the gunless thug asked the empty room.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Pelletier is a Canadian writer and editor of both fiction and non-fiction, who lives in Montreal. Like her childhood idol, Indiana Jones, she studied archaeology and traveled the world in search of adventure. What she found was a cat, and a million story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @mad_pelletier.

This story took second place in our Western Story Contest!